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South Korea: Authorities raid university over favoritism allegations

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South Korean prosecutors raided a prestigious local university on Tuesday over suspicions that it granted favors to a close confidante of President Park Geun-hye and her daughter.

Chung Yoo-ra, 19, has been accused of gaining admission into Ewha Womans University in western Seoul due to her mother’s connection to the president.

Chung’s mother, Choi Soon-sil, is at the center of a controversy that has rocked Park’s administration, spurring thousands of South Koreans to gather in protest over the past few weeks.

To facilitate investigations, officers confiscated computer hard drives, cell phones, and documents related to admissions in 2015 from about 20 of the university’s offices, as well as the homes of school officials, including former university President Choi Kyung-hee, reported Yonhap News Agency.

Choi had stepped down last month after news broke that the university was being investigated by the Education Ministry over the matter.

Following two weeks of investigations, the government said on Friday that the school had provided favors to Chung, ranging from college admissions to academic affairs.

According to the ministry, a panel of professors allegedly ignored multiple school regulations to help Chung get admitted and the favorable treatment continued after she was accepted.

Ewha officials were said to have “manipulated the admissions process” by adding horseback riding to a list of categories open to student athletes just before Chung was accepted as a student.

Chung, a former member of the national equestrian team, was believed to have received special treatment in the admissions process over her equestrian record.  

Besides that, authorities found evidence that other students attended classes and took exams in Chung’s place.

In one instance, a professor even completed an assignment for her.

Minister of Education Lee Joon-Sik said last week: “The education ministry will request Ewha to revoke her (Chung’s) admission”.

He added that ministry measures prepared in March to root out corruption in college admissions would be brought forward.

“We definitely feel responsible for (failing to properly) monitor the university,” said Lee, as quoted by University World News.

The university has since issued a public apology, adding that it will cancel Chung’s admission to the school and punish those involved.

The special investigative team also summoned Korea Racing Authority chief Hyun Myung-kwan over his alleged provision of illegal financial support for Chung’s equestrian training.

Image via Federation Equestre Internationale

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